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ACA 2021 Conference: An Interview with Kelsey Beauvais and Laura Hernandez

3 Jun 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

ACA 2021 Virtual Conference - June 7-11, 2021

[Dark blue and red banner of the ACA Virtual Conference 2021 - Home Improvement. Featuring drawings of a house, a hammer, a nail, a construction barrier, and a ruler]

The ACA 2021 Annual conference is approaching fast! In the Field: The ACA blog is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the conference, June 7-11, 2021. Today we are featuring the profiles of Kelsey Beauvais and Laura Hernandez, Archivists at Library and Archives Canada. 


Title of your presentation to the ACA 2021 conference? 

An exercise in digital curation: Enhancing archival description and digital processing for the Prime Minister Papers Project. 

Can you walk us through your academic and professional path?

Kelsey Beauvais: I went to Laurentian University following my passion in history and completed an Honours Bachelor's degree. I already knew by this point that I didn't want to be a teacher - which seemed to be the only profession and career advertised at the time. My love for historical research and passion in exploring oodles of primary sources lead me to continue my education with a Master's degree at Université de Rennes 2(Year 1)/University of Ottawa (Year 2). 

[Portrait of Kelsey Beauvais, wearing dark-rimmed glasses, a salmon-pink scarf and a black t-shirt]

Laura Hernandez: I completed an Honours History and Anthropology Bachelor's degree at Western University. I wanted to either become a museum curator or continue my academic path towards a PHD. I decided to continue at Western's Public History Master's Program at Western in the end as it was best suited for me. 

[Portrait of Laura Hernandez, wearing black-rimmed glasses, and a grey and light green shawl]

What brought you to the field of archival studies and practice?

We both have what is perhaps considered non-traditional paths to archival practice and we often joke about being "accidental archivists". 

Kelsey: It's been an up and down journey in the search for a career. I've worked with heritage organizations and mainly supporting GLAMs, but it became clearer to me that I was searching for a niche where I could work more closely with historical sources. This really stood out for me while I was working at CCUNESCO as a Program Officer and coordinating the Canada Memory of the World Register; where my values, interests, knowledge and skills came together at a crux in archival practice. Enter the most amazing opportunity as an Archivist with LAC on the PM project! 

Laura: I had multiple jobs in museums since I was a teen, but I always found myself enjoying the research side of things. A big recession hit right after finishing my Masters but I was lucky to get a job with a private firm in Ottawa as a historical research analyst. I worked there for nearly a decade on historical litigation research projects including co-managing TRC research work. That helped me get a foot in the door at LAC, first as an archival assistant in Government Records, then as an archivist for this project! 

What do the theme of the ACA 2021 conference, “Home Improvement: Building Archives Through Change,” means to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice? 

There is a delicate balance in respecting and understanding what's been done in the past and why, versus understanding and accepting that practices and even archival concepts need to evolve over time. They call it archival science for a reason, there are trial and errors, we come up with solutions and innovations that work for a particular record, project or situation that may not be feasible in the future. Best practices, methods, and concepts will always be a work in progress as society changes and evolves. In order to move Archives forward, we must root ourselves in principles, but be open to change and most importantly, to sharing our lessons learned and solutions. 

Can you tell us about your research approach and perspectives?

 The idea behind this presentation arose from informal conversations and brainstorming on how to process databases/data sets. While the records were suitable for preservation, we felt these were too valuable and complex to leave in their current state. This meant we needed to explore ways to create additional access points for these while maintaining their integrity. Our overall approach has been a practical and agile one particularly when it comes to description: maximizing what is already available (metadata), using this to supplement contextual information, and adhering to best practices to ensure the authenticity/integrity and long term preservation of the records. The bulk of the research came afterwards as we sought to validate our belief that archivists can have a greater role in digital curation allowing us to collaborate with other areas and to innovate in order to enrich descriptions of records when feasible. 

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